Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Norway calls on Ireland to help recover ‘irreplaceable’ Viking artifacts

© University Museum of Bergen / Facebook

A museum in Norway has appealed for help from its counterparts in Ireland after 400 Viking artifacts were stolen from its premises.

The collection, some of which was originally taken from Ireland by marauding Vikings more than a millennium ago, was stolen from the University Museum of Bergen on the country’s southwestern coast on August 12.

The Irish items have been on display in the National Museum of Ireland in the past and, in a karmic twist, local police are now said to be investigating a possible connection to Irish criminal gangs.

“It is difficult to find the right words to describe my feelings towards what has happened,” museum director Henrik von Achen said in a statement.

“One of our primary tasks is to protect cultural heirlooms. When we fail to do this, no explanation is good enough. This hits us at a very soft spot. We are all very shaky and feeling a sense of despair,” he added.

Read the rest of this article...

Viking textile did not feature word 'Allah', expert says

Medieval Islamic art and archaeology professor Stephennie Mulder disputes the findings, saying the inscription has 'no Arabic at all'


A tablet woven band, from a Viking burial site Annika Larsson

An expert has disputed claims that Allah's name was embroidered into ancient Viking burial clothes - a discovery hailed as "staggering" when Swedish researchers announced their findings last week.

After reexamining the cloth, archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University claimed the silk patterns which were originally thought to be ordinary Viking Age decoration, showed a geometric Kufic script.

The patterns were found on woven bands as well as items of clothing in two separate grave sites, prompting the suggestion that Viking funeral customs had been influenced by Islam.

Read the rest of this article...

Using parchment to reveal the ancient lives of livestock

A page from the York Gospels. Eraser rubbings left over from cleaning the pages of this manuscript revealed the ancient genomes of the animals used to produce the parchment. 
(Image: York Minster)

Innovative ways of utilising ancient protein and DNA analysis have revealed new information about medieval parchment and the animals from which they are made.

A group of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the University of York have taken eraser rubbings – left over from the cleaning of medieval manuscripts – and extracted DNA and proteins from the waste. This method means that parts of the manuscript no longer need to be removed for destructive testing.

The group recently used this technique to analyse the pages of the York Gospels, an Anglo-Saxon book (c.1000 AD) containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, a letter from King Cnut, and land ownership documents. The experiment yielded some interesting results.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 16 October 2017

Gold coin sheds new light on 5th century Swedish island massacre

The discovery of gold rings and coins on a Swedish island sheds new light on the history of the area, and could give insight into the motives for a massacre which took place in the fifth century, archaeologists told The Local on Wednesday.


The coin and gold rings in situ [Credit: Daniel Lindskog]

The team working at Sandby Borg, a ringfort on Öland off Sweden's south-eastern coast, said the discovery was the "find of the year".

Archaeologists Clara Alfsdotter and Sophie Vallulv last week uncovered two rings and a coin, which confirm a theory that the island was in close contact with the Roman Empire. Close by, the team found pieces of Roman glass in an area which was once an important house.

Read the rest of this article...

Why did Vikings have 'Allah' embroidered into funeral clothes?

One of the excavated fragments made from fine silk and silver thread discovered at the two Swedish sites, Birka and Gamla Uppsala

Researchers in Sweden have found Arabic characters woven into burial costumes from Viking boat graves. The discovery raises new questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia, writes journalist Tharik Hussain.

They were kept in storage for more than 100 years, dismissed as typical examples of Viking Age funeral clothes.

But a new investigation into the garments - found in 9th and 10th Century graves - has thrown up groundbreaking insights into contact between the Viking and Muslim worlds.

Patterns woven with silk and silver thread have been found to spell the words "Allah" and "Ali".

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Viking burial fabrics found to have name of Allah woven into them

What was previously thought to be typical Viking Age patterns in silver have now proven to be geometric Kufic characters. The Uppsala University researchers behind the study also show that both Allah and Ali are invoked in the patterns of the bands.


A tablet woven band, from a Viking burial site 
[Credit: Annika Larsson]

The Arabic characters appear on woven bands of silk in burial costumes found in Viking Age boatgraves, as well as in the chamber graves clothing of central Viking Age sites such as Birka in Swedish Mälardalen.

“One exciting detail is that the word ‘Allah’ is depicted in mirror image,” says Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University.

“It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland. Perhaps this was an attempt to write prayers so that they could be read from left to right, but with the Arabic characters they should have. That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”

Read the rest of this article...

‘Allah’ Is Found on Viking Funeral Clothes

A reconstructed Viking boat grave from the Gamla Uppsala archaeological site in Sweden is part of a Viking couture exhibition at the Enkopings Museum. Credit Therese Larsson

ENKOPING, Sweden — The discovery of Arabic characters that spell “Allah” and “Ali” on Viking funeral costumes in boat graves in Sweden has raised questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia.

The grave where the costumes were found belonged to a woman dressed in silk burial clothes and was excavated from a field in Gamla Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in the 1970s, but its contents were not cataloged until a few years ago, Annika Larsson, a textile archaeologist at Uppsala University, said on Friday.

Among the contents unearthed: a necklace with a figurine; two coins from Baghdad; and the bones of a rooster and a large dog.

Read the rest of this article...